If you’d like to replace your old furnace, don’t assume that a new furnace is the only option. This may be the go-to choice for most North American homes, but heat pumps are steadily growing in popularity. Still, the question remains: Is a heat pump the right fit for everyone? Explore several persuasive reasons to consider a heat pump, how it compares to a traditional furnace and whether a heat pump is the best choice for your home comfort needs.
The core design between a heat pump and a traditional furnace is fundamentally different. Furnaces burn fuel—including natural gas, oil or propane to generate heat. On the other hand, heat pumps use electricity and refrigerant to move heat. This fundamental difference affects the equipment’s efficiency, environmental impact and versatility.
Modern condensing furnaces feature high annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings, which is certainly appealing. But this only measures the furnace’s ability to convert fuel to heat—it doesn’t account for the full energy footprint involved in the process of extracting, refining and transporting said fuel.
By comparison, a heat pump’s efficiency is measured by its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). While it’s difficult to compare these numbers at first glance, understand that heat pumps typically outperform furnaces.
Here’s why more and more homeowners are exploring a heat pump for their year-round heating and cooling needs.
The operating cost is the first thing that comes to mind when deciding on a new home appliance. Furnaces can be quite efficient, but they max out at about 98% efficiency. On the other hand, heat pumps are capable of providing three times more heat energy than the electrical energy consumed during the process. In other words, heat pumps can be three times as efficient under proper operating conditions. This budget-friendly performance leads to reduced utility bills.
Your household’s environmental footprint could be more reduced with a heat pump. While electric furnaces are available, traditional gas-fired furnaces run on combustible natural gas or heating oil, the production and distribution of which has a detrimental effect on the planet. A heat pump operates without burning fuel, reducing your home’s environmental impact, especially if you also have solar panels to generate environmentally friendly electricity from the sun.
One of the most innovative features of a heat pump is its flexibility. It’s an effective heating system in the winter and doubles as your air conditioner during the summer. Thanks to a straightforward built-in switch, the heat pump changes its operation and draws out warm air from your home, just like a standard AC unit. This dual-purpose solution appeals to many homeowners.
Heat pumps run more quietly than traditional furnaces as they don’t have to combust fuel to generate heat. No combustion means reduced noise, resulting in a calmer living space.
If your home is already equipped with ductwork, transitioning to a heat pump is a fast, easy process. The air handler goes where your furnace is currently located, and the outdoor unit replaces your air conditioner. It’s just that easy.
While heat pumps are innovative and energy efficient, they may not suit every situation. Heating efficiency drops in extreme cold, making heat pumps less suitable in regions with long, cold winters. That being said, advancements in cold-climate technology are making heat pumps more consistently effective in colder climates, so keep your eye out for models designed to continue working in these kinds of climates.
It’s also worth mentioning that the up-front cost of buying a high-quality heat pump is frequently higher than a forced-air furnace. However, it also means you won’t have to buy an air conditioner. If both systems are noticeably less efficient, you may actually save money up front by upgrading them with a heat pump. Plus, you’ll gain back any investment cost through lower energy bills over time.
If your home is missing the required ductwork, putting it in adds to your up-front costs. But furnaces need ductwork too, so this doesn’t necessarily prefer selecting a furnace over a heat pump. In fact, ductless heat pumps are available for older homes and additions where ductwork isn’t present.
Finally, a heat pump’s efficiency benefits diminish if you live in an area with higher than average electricity costs. You can offset this by adding solar panels, which generate electricity from the sun to power your heat pump and many other electrical systems.
Still not sure if a heat pump is right for you? Consult Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, and our installers can help you figure out if a heat pump suits your heating and cooling needs. Then, whether you opt for a heat pump or a traditional furnace, we can put in your new system above and beyond your expectations. Contact us today to seek a free installation estimate.
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